European broadcasters concern over Hungary media law

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European broadcasters said Friday they had written to Hungary's prime minister to raise concerns over the independence of the country's public media following a controversial new media law.

"We have watched developments with growing concern, including the controversy raised by the new media law and the appointments for the new regulatory authority and media council," said the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in its letter to Viktor Orban.

"In view of the above-mentioned developments, the lack of public debate and the failure to include other socially relevant groups within Hungary in discussions on the establishment of this new system, we are very concerned about the state of its independence and its capacity to represent the plurality of views within Hungary in the future," it added.

Budapest has come under fire from media and rights groups, as well as European governments, for its new media law, which came into force on January 1, just as Hungary took over the presidency of the European Union.

Following the outcry, Orban said Budapest might amend the law if Europe demanded it.

Under the legislation, a new authority -- headed by a close ally of the prime minister -- has the right to impose major fines on media outlets and force journalists to reveal sources on issues related to national security.

The Geneva-based EBU groups 75 state and private broadcasters from 56 European countries.

© 2011 AFP

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